Finding Dory, 2016.
Directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane.
Featuring the voice talents of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olsen, Ty Burrell, Hayden Rolence, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Bob Peterson, Kate McKinnon, Sloane Murray, Bill Hader, Sigourney Weaver, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Vicki Lewis, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, and Willem Dafoe.
Pixar continues its string of great animated movies with Finding Dory, which successfully continues the Finding Nemo story in a way that doesn’t feel like a cash grab. This set, which includes two Blu-rays and a DVD, has a nice smattering of bonus features, although a solid making-of documentary is conspicuously missing.
I had a couple young children when Finding Nemo came out, so the film hit me between the eyes as a parent (and still does, since my wife and I had another child a few years later). Its themes revolving around parenting and knowing when to trust your child’s ability to do things on their own, despite any limitations they may have, spoke to me. Unsurprisingly, was chosen for an end-of-year movie night at my son’s elementary school a few months ago.
The Finding Nemo story was so perfectly told, and wrapped up so well, that I couldn’t imagine a sequel. Sure, it introduced a world that’s much bigger than its main characters, so there was more to explore, but I was content. When I heard Finding Dory was in the works, I was skeptical, and I went into the movie this past summer ready to declare it suffering from sequel-itis.
But something funny happened: Finding Dory works as well as the original. The search for Dory’s parents was an obvious choice, but director Andrew Stanton, who helmed Finding Nemo, and the rest of the Pixar crew made sure they didn’t simply retread the same story beats and give us more of the same. Sure, it’s another quest movie, but it strikes different emotional notes, and it gives us a wider view into its world.
And, yes, the animation is simply stunning. As Stanton notes a couple times in the bonus features, Finding Dory showcases computer-generated feats that simply weren’t possible over a decade ago, such as shots that show a container of water in front of a tank, with multiple refractions happening simultaneously. One of the bonus features also digs exclusively into the octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill, noting that the many points of articulation in his arms created a stressful workload for the animators. (Fun fact: They gave him seven arms because it lightened the animation tasks a little and they figured no one would notice. I know I didn’t.)
This release has a smattering of bonus features spread across two Blu-ray discs, along with a DVD copy of the movie and a code for those who are building libraries in the cloud. Unfortunately, there isn’t a nice long making-of documentary that takes a look at the film from start to finish, but you’ll get glimpses into the stages of the process by the time you’re done with everything in this set.
The movie Blu-ray features a commentary track with Stanton, co-director Angus MacLane, and producer Lindsey Collins. Stanton takes the lead, starting with how the movie came about and his thoughts on Finding Nemo after revisiting it several years ago. Each scene offers up a smattering of trivia, technology discussions, and other subjects. It’s a good track that gets as close to a making-of piece as you’ll find here.
The first disc also offers:
- Amusing interviews where the characters talk about Dory, as if the Blu-ray producers sat them down for a series of Q&As.
- The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar: Nine minutes about the aforementioned stress of bringing the octopus to life. You’ll come away with even more admiration for how hard the Pixar crew works, even when they’re faced with obstacles that would probably cause lesser people to say, “Um, let’s just change the octopus to another fish character. Problem solved!”
- Four minutes about the challenges of building the story around a character with short-term memory loss. (I was a little surprised no one mentioned the movie Memento.) An interesting factoid: Dory’s parents were supposed to suffer from the same affliction, but Stanton said the team quickly realized that the story became weighed down too easily.
- An amusing piece about Stanton picking up some of the voice actors, including Ty Burrell and Albert Brooks, but forgetting about O’Neill and having to go back for him. Brooks’ note about clown fish changing their gender, and how that could provide the spark for another sequel, is shot down.
- Two pieces focusing on the voice-over work that run about ten minutes total.
- Deep in the Kelp: One of the Disney Channel kids talks about the Pixar crew’s research for the film, which included a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’ve been there and can attest it’s worth the trip. (Fun fact: They filmed there for Star Trek IV.)
The second Blu-ray leads off with five featurettes billed as a behind-the-scenes series, but it’s a bit all over the place. One of Pixar’s animators talks about his love of skateboarding and character design, and how both teach him various lessons. Then composer Tom Newman and music editor Bill Bernstein talk to Andrew Stanton about the musical score, followed up by a series of amusing computer glitches. (My son had to watch the glitches twice.) Then there’s Finding Nemo as told by emojis, although all the tank gang scenes are left out, and finally there’s Fish Schticks, which features the characters having fun.
The disc also includes a nice 50-minute series of deleted scenes, with introductions from Stanton. Unfortunately, the deleted sequence featuring the tank gang from Finding Nemo, which is mentioned in the commentary, isn’t found here. This bonus feature is so lengthy because there are four versions of the opening sequence, which Stanton uses to demonstrate how Pixar ruthlessly hones its stories until they’re just right.
Finally, there are four trailers and four “living aquariums” that play underwater scenes for lengthy periods of time. I don’t know why anyone would want to, for example, watch the sting rays swim around for nearly three hours, but I suppose it could be fun to put on during a party.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★